Fears about the rise of right-wing extremism in Wales

A Generation Identity march. Picture by Hope Not Hate

Mark Mansfield

Wales might not be considered a hotbed of right-wing extremism but the far-right is active and recruiting here as evidenced by a post on Twitter last week, displaying photos of Generation Identity stickers plastered around Wrexham.

This white supremacist group hasn’t had much of a profile here previously, but it seems we can now add them to the fractured and increasingly dangerous roster of far-right organisations operating in Wales.

It would be wrong to suggest they are heavy hitters at present. Anti-racism and fascism group Hope Not Hate estimated a membership of fewer than 30 in the UK and Ireland in their “State Of Hate report” earlier in the year.

Their online presence, however, extends their influence significantly beyond this.

Described in some quarters as “hipster Nazis,” they are an offshoot of the Generation Identity group founded in France in 2012: a pan-European, anti-Muslim and anti-migrant Identitarian movement.

They claim to represent “indigenous Europeans” and argues that white people are becoming a minority in their own countries in what it calls the “Great Replacement”.

The organisation advocates racial segregation, claiming ethnic groups are equal but ought to live separately and argues for forced repatriation.

Support for GI has been rising across Europe following a series of terror attacks claimed by ISIS. GI also hijacked concerns over the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in Europe by crowdfunding a boat to interfere with rescues in the Mediterranean.

The “Defend Europe” campaign raised cash using a website run by American far-right activist Charles C. Johnson, who it’s alleged has also acted as an advisor to Donald Trump. Mail Online columnist Katie Hopkins widely publicised the project when she spent time with the organisers in Sicily.

GI UK and Ireland has only been active for a year, officially establishing satellite branches in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, and Liverpool last July. In August 2017 anti-fascist activists shut down the first meeting of the Scottish branch in Glasgow.

Three months later, in GI’s first major publicity stunt, activists unfurled a banner on Westminster Bridge reading “Defend London – Stop Islamisation”.  In November, ITV broadcast secretly filmed footage of GI members at a military-style training camp in France and exposed links between American white supremacists and the organisation.

Following the exposé, Damhnait McKenna, the leader of GI UK and Ireland, told The Independent:

“We want to bring a revival to our culture and our way of life.

“Our biggest concern, of course, is becoming a minority in our own country.”

Online

Subsequently, much of the group’s recent activity has been limited to handing out leaflets, stickering and posing for pictures to post online – as in Wrexham.

They’ve also attracted attention by handing out meals containing pork to homeless people to prevent homeless Muslims from eating them, by flying anti-Islam banners in public places and stickering the walls of mosques.

They participated in the recent Free Tommy Robinson protest in London, where 21 police officers were injured following violence from the marchers.

As a consequence of having few members, much of the activity of Generation Identity is online. They produce slick videos, featuring youthful activists, targeting a much younger demographic than more established right-wing groups.

They claimed to be growing a substantial following online and across social media, but suffered a significant setback last month when Facebook banned them from the platform.

GI was found to be in contravention of the company’s policies against extremist content and organised hate groups and consequently, Facebook started deleting many of their pages.

Surge

Neil Hamilton. Picture by Derek Bennett (CC BY 2.0).

While the far-right struggles for a foothold in Wales, there is concern about the present political trajectory of UKIP, which already has five members in the Welsh Assembly.

UKIP leader Gerard Batten’s attempts to steer the party to the far-right fringes of UK politics seem to be paying off with a surge in new members in July.

Over 3,000 supporters signed up in the month, an increase of 15% overall. The rise follows the recent announcement that four alt-right/alt-light luminaries had joined UKIP.

Since replacing Henry Bolton in February, Batten, who describes Islam as a “death cult” has rowed back on a longstanding rule which bars entry to UKIP for former members of the British National Party and English Defence League.

In April he took part in a lengthy video interview with EDL founder Tommy Robinson, for Robinson’s YouTube channel.

UKIP have also participated in demonstrations to free Robinson, who earlier this year was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court.

And in June UKIP joined the counter-demonstration against the anti-Brexit march, alongside the openly racist Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), the Veterans Against Terrorism group, and Generation Identity, an organisation that calls for racial segregation.

Last month UKIP was again part of a demonstration in London to free Robinson. Batten tweeted “I will be speaking at the Free Tommy Robinson Rally tomorrow in Whitehall at 3 pm”.

“I hope that many thousands will turn out to support a very brave man who speaks out to expose the greatest scandal in our social history: the industrialised paedophile rape gangs,” he said.

‘Rivers of blood’

This shift is clearly of great significance in Wales which is, after the European Parliament, UKIP’s last remaining electoral stronghold.

They have reaped the rewards of the electoral system which allowed them to achieve their greatest success in UK politics, winning seven seats on just 13% of the vote in the 2016 Assembly election.

Within weeks of the vote, Nathan Gill was deposed as leader of the Assembly group to be replaced by disgraced former Tory MP Neil Hamilton, now AM for the Mid and West Wales region.

Hamilton, who was criticised for not even living in Wales, soon caused uproar by referring to Leanne Wood and Kirsty Williams as ‘concubines’ in Carwyn Jones’ ‘harem’.

More recently, he defended Enoch Powell’s notorious ‘rivers of blood’ speech on BBC Radio Wales, claiming Powell had been “proven right by events”.

“Those who are professional grudge-merchants, and those who do want to see the country transformed by mass immigration, do call people like me and Enoch racist,” he said.

In May, after refusing to suspend AM Michelle Brown, who was excluded from the Assembly over a racial slur she made against a Labour MP, Hamilton was ousted as leader of the UKIP group.

He resisted the ban, accusing Assembly members of trying to police each other’s private lives, and called on Labour to root out racists and anti-Semites in its own party.

Caroline Jones, AM for south-west Wales, took over and both are standing again in a leadership contest due to be concluded later this month.

Also standing is Gareth Bennett AM, who represents South Wales Central, and is campaigning against Welsh language education and to abolish the Assembly.

‘Coup’

On Twitter Hamilton was one of the first to trumpet UKIP’s big-name signings:

Meechan, AKA Count Dankula was fined £800 in April after he posted footage on YouTube of his partner’s pug raising its paw in response to commands such as “Gas the Jews and “Sieg Heil”. His YouTube channel has 288,216 subscribers and he has over 132,000 followers on Twitter.

Watson, who has described the quartet’s move to UKIP as “a soft coup”, produces videos on YouTube and is editor-at-large of the InfoWars and Prison Planet websites, headed by American conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones.

Watson’s YouTube channel has over a million subscribers and has had over 221,698,300 views. He boasts over 882,000 followers on Twitter and according to Hope Not Hate, his Islamophobic account was the most mentioned over the two days following the Westminster terror attack in March 2017.

Carl Benjamin, AKA Sargon of Akkad, has described Harvey Weinstein’s victims as “gold-digging whores” and defended misogynist killer Elliot Rodger as a “poor fucking guy” who had “no option” but to murder six people because of feminism.

His YouTube channel has over 810,000 subscribers. Milo Yiannopoulos has over 2,509,440 followers on Facebook and 736,000 YouTube subscribers.

The former Brietbart editor, one of the stars of the Alt-right in America, resigned from the news organisation after video footage emerged of him appearing to endorse sexual relationships between young boys and older men.

Hamilton is obviously eager to use the social media clout of these new members to boost his profile and his challenge for the leadership in Wales.

Strategy

The majority of people in Wales will be disturbed that an AM is happy to endorse extremist provocateurs – indeed some might feel it brings the Assembly into disrepute.

However, UKIP appears to be on the upswing thanks to a combination of the Tory government’s shambolic handling of the Brexit negotiations and Batten’s ardent courtship of the extreme right.

Recent polls put UKIP support at 7%, the highest since May 2017. Over 500 new members signed up within days of the announcement of Meechan, Watson, Benjamin and Yiannopoulos joining their ranks.

How this plays out for Hamilton’s bid to regain the leadership of the UKIP Assembly group is a moot point. He’s the most high profile of their AMs but is also very unpopular with the Welsh public.

In a Welsh Political Barometer poll last year he scored an average approval rating of just 1.9 out of 10, including UKIP voters.

As Professor Roger Scully observed at the time “I’m not aware of any party leader, anywhere, that has ever scored as badly on a similar question.”

UKIP’s 900 members in Wales will vote for in the leadership election, with the result expected by the 10th of August.

Previously party rules stated members could only vote if they’d belonged to the party for six months.

Up to 300 hundred have joined more recently, apparently attracted by the party’s rightwards swing and it’s believed this change will favour Hamilton’s challenge – suggesting his strategy could pay off.

In the meantime, with the next Assembly elections three years away, we face the depressing prospect of the Senedd offering a platform to a political party that openly supports racists, anti-Semites, homophobes and misogynists and seeks to use their media outlets to advance common aims.


Nation.Cymru is currently fundraising to pay for independent journalism. Just £2 a month by 600 people would achieve this – please click here for details.

Facebook Comments

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox